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Cheyenne [archive]

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Remembering Chief Homer St. Francis

Location:

Today they are settled in Montana and Oklahoma.

Language:

The Cheyenne (shy-ANN) dialect is part of the Algonquin language family. Their alphabet only contains fourteen letters which can be combined to form words and phrases. Today, the United States government is working to convert the Cheyenne to an English-only speaking tribe. The Cheyenne are trying desperately to keep their language alive despite the government’s recent attempts to make their language extinct.

History:

The Cheyenne first lived in the eastern portion of the United States. They lived in fixed villages and used the land for farming. Some moved west and southwest. Eventually, they moved into the plains area, in the woodlands of the Mississippi River Valley.

Before the sun rose, the Cheyenne began preparing for the day. Building the fire was the first task to be completed. The women woke to get the water from the nearby stream, while the men and boys went to the stream to bathe. As dawn continued, the camp became livelier. The women made the morning meal and the boys herded the horses back into camp.

After the meal, announcements were made by the old crier who circled the people on his horse. When he was finished, the people went about their daily activities. The children would scatter about the area to swim, run, and model images out of clay. The women of the camp had many activities to keep them busy. They would go off in groups to gather wood and roots early in the day. This was their time for joking and laughing. They gathered sticks from the ground and broke dead branches off the trees in the forest. The wood was divided up, formed into bundles, and strapped on their backs. They then set out for camp. The older men made bows, arrows and pipes, while the young men spent time enhancing their personal appearance or listening to wise men.

Many men hunted game to provide the camp with food. As day turned into night, the Cheyenne people prepared for the meal. This was the lively event of the day in which music, dancing and various other activities took place. After a few hours, the camp became silent as people turned in for the night.

Best Known Features:

An important Cheyenne custom is the smoking of the peace pipe. There are strict rules during the smoking of the pipe. A prayer is offered before the first smoke. Most men have their own specific way to smoke the peace pipe.

Another tradition of the Cheyenne is storytelling, which can only be done by certain people. These stories are often related.

Resources:

Grinnell, George Bird. The Cheyenne Indians: Their History and Ways of Life. New York: Cooper Square Publishers, Inc., 1962.

Hoebel, E. Adamson. The Cheyenne’s: Indians of the Great Plains. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960.

Additional Reading

 Cheyenne Indians
 Cheyenne Language
 Cheyenne Words
 Cheyenne Indian legends
 Indian Tribes of Oklahoma

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